A sonic boom was heard in the Washington DC area on Sunday afternoon when military jets chased after an unresponsive private plane that flew through restricted airspace and then crashed, killing all four people on board.
The deafening boom sounded as two F-16 fighter jets took off from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, to investigate the aircraft which was flying but not responding to radio transmissions shortly after 3 p.m., according to the Department of defense.
Residents of the capital and surrounding communities were left puzzled until more information was released later.
The F-16s were deployed after the Cessna private jet flew into restricted airspace over the capital before crashing hard in southwest Virginia.
The fighter planes saw that the pilot of the plane had passed out, a US official told ABC News.
Rescuers were able to reach the plane crash site hours later on foot in a rural part of the Shenandoah Valley where no survivors were found, police said.
The plane departed Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tenn., bound for Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
It had reached the New York area before making a nearly 180-degree turn and flying off to Virginia, according to flight tracking website Flight Aware.
It is not known why the plane did not respond or why it crashed.
The jet plummeted at a rapid pace, at one point dropping over 30,000 feet per minute before crashing.
The Cessna appeared to be flying on autopilot, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The two F-16s were allowed to travel at supersonic speeds, causing the sonic boom that was heard throughout the region, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement later. according to the New York Times.
The owner of the company where the plane was registered told The Times on Sunday that his daughter, 2-year-old granddaughter and their nanny, along with the pilot, were on board the doomed plane on the way home to their East Hampton home.
John Rumpel of Encore Motors of Melbourne Inc said they were returning to New York after visiting him in North Carolina. He told the newspaper he didn’t have much information, but suggested the plane may have lost pressurization.
The 75-year-old, who is a pilot himself, said he hoped his family would not suffer in the wreckage as his voice cracked.
He added that if the plane lost pressurization, “they would all just have fallen asleep and never woken up,” according to the publication.
Rumpel’s wife, Barbara Weimer Rumpel, posted photos of their daughter and granddaughter on Facebook.
“My family is gone, my daughter and my granddaughter,” she wrote.
Barbara Rumpel is known for her gun rights work and has been a member of the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Council since 2002 and a member of the council’s executive committee since 2012, according to LinkedIn.
The couple are also politically active and together have donated to numerous Republican federal candidates over the past few years — including $250,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in 2020, according to online records.
The sonic boom, which occurs after a vehicle broke the sound barrier at 767 mph, could be heard across the capital and in cities across Maryland and northern Virginia, with many taking to Twitter to s ask about the explosion that rocked their homes.
“That was strong enough to shake my goddamn coffee table,” local Matt Cox tweeted after the boom. “Thank God there are no children in the house.”
Washington’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency said earlier in the day that the boom had been heard in the National Capital Region, but “there is no threat at this time.”
Officials also clarified that the Cessna was not shot down by a military aircraft.
The accident is under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board
With post wires